Challenge: Involving Citizens in Long Range Transportation Planning
Creating meaningful transportation change to move a growing population is challenging, and for the team at Hillsborough MPO, it involves public engagement and support across multiple counties, through collaboration with neighboring Pasco MPO and Forward Pinellas. Yet residents also find it challenging to get up to speed on transportation alternatives to provide meaningful input. Without transportation planning education, it’s difficult for them to picture what their community will require in 20 years time. Beth Alden, AICP, Executive Director at Hillsborough MPO explained,
“It’s hard for people to imagine this scale of change. And, we’ve tried a bunch of different strategies, like doing PowerPoint presentations that have before and after pictures. It’s still hard for people to grasp. What I like about MetroQuest is that there’s been a lot of attention to, ‘How do you have that conversation with people?’”
Solution: Gamifying Public Involvement Surveys with MetroQuest!
The Hillsborough MPO team has achieved amazing results by taking public involvement online across several planning projects. Beth described how her team uses a variety of MetroQuest Screens to build different surveys that gamify education on transportation alternatives and collect informed input at various stages of their planning projects.
“Our philosophy has been: get an engaging survey that tells a story and take it out to people in as many different ways as you can, in as many different locations as you can. MetroQuest has been great in helping us tell that story and put it into a variety of different formats that we can use.”
Hillsborough Engaged 7,700+ for Its Award-Winning Imagine 2040 Plan
Together with the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission, Beth and her team embarked on a scenario planning exercise in 2013 to lay the groundwork for updating the Comprehensive Plans for both the county and three cities, simultaneously with their countywide LRTP. The goal? To achieve a holistic vision for the region.
“We used MetroQuest in our last Long Range Transportation Plan update, which was a collaboration with our land use planning agency,” said Beth. “The MetroQuest platform was a way to tell that story, ‘What does it mean?’”
In phase one of their public outreach, they successfully engaged over 3,500+ people across greater Tampa, collecting 91,500+ public priorities and preferences. Phase two saw an additional 2,200+ MetroQuest survey respondents. Both phases of public engagement were a big success.
The MetroQuest survey results provided guidance for the Comprehensive Plans and LRTP based on the horizon year of 2040. These plans subsequently received one gold and two silver awards with the American Planning Association’s Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places Recognition Program. Imagine 2040 also received the Exemplary Implementation Award at the 14th OPTG New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, in recognition of the team’s use of planning tools in an innovative manner to create effective public engagement and improved analysis.
It’s Time Tampa Bay Survey Breaks Hillsborough Record with 9,575 Participants!
“It’s Time Tampa Bay is our most recent survey with MetroQuest, and it expanded the scope of our previous surveys in that it’s a collaboration with two neighboring MPOs. This is the first time that we’ve worked together on growth and transportation scenarios,” Beth described both the cooperative and sensitive nature of the LRTP, “We had a very controversial interstate highway project that affected our urban core area, and if it didn’t move forward, it would also affect the other counties in our very large and sprawling metropolitan area.”
“We were really amazed at the results we got back this time. As I mentioned, it was a tri-county effort. So, we had a wide base of partners that we could work with and that helped with getting the 9,575 usable surveys that we got. Definitely our biggest response ever!”
Congratulations on reaching new heights in public engagement! The 9,575 participants provided nearly 236,000 data points and 10,500 comments, empowering the team to uncover new insights into local transportation needs and preferences.
Beth explained the impact of the survey results, “What has come out of it is a shift in the big controversial interstate highway project. The Department of Transportation has agreed to shift the focus from a corridor that went through our urban core to a corridor that is more on the perimeter with a connecting roadway. So, that’s different. There was also so much interest in passenger rail as an option in this survey. I was kind of surprised. And, what that means is we get to keep that kind of technology on the table as we move into our Long Range Transportation Plan.”
Result: Award-Winning Plans that Get Approved!
Outstanding involvement helps shape transportation investments and build public support for plans – it also captures the attention of decision makers. Beth emphasized the importance of comprehensive public input in the context of controversial plans that require the vote of elected leaders.
“The kind of feedback that I’ve gotten from my City Council members, for example for Tampa, is that they felt like this was a really robust survey. They feel a lot more comfortable going the direction that we’re proposing to go.”
Hillsborough MPO is one of hundreds of metropolitan planning organizations, councils of government, regional planning agencies, and state departments of transportation to have used MetroQuest surveys to maximize public participation, collect informed input, and deliver actionable results in support of better planning decisions. We would like to congratulate all involved in these award-wining projects for your outstanding public engagement results – congratulations Beth to you, your team and partners!